New Orleans is synonyous as a party town. And it’s true, as there is almost a festival or event to celebrate every week in New Orleans. I recently visited the “Big Easy” during its New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, known as NOWFE. The event spotlights the city’s legendary restaurants along with fine wines. More than 250 wineries are typically represented during the five day festival at a series of indoor and outdoor events. Each year tickets are available for a variety of food and wine dinners and pairings in intimate dining rooms or at the massive convention center. Besides taking in favorite New Orleans dining haunts, such as the John Besh Steakhouse, and charming Court of Two Sisters, I enjoyed several informative and delicious NOWFE events as well.
A surprising dinner held upstairs at famed Galatoire’s, featuring Barefoot Wines, was educational and thirst quenching. The surprise was not in the elegant food and atmosphere but the diversity of Barefoot Wines, which were paired with each course. The fun and affordable wines are offered in a plethora of styles including: Barefoot Bubble Prosecco (honey and lemon flavors), California Chardonnay (easy drinking), Refresh Crisp Red (a pino-like wine on the rocks), California Merlot (a classic paired with beef), among many wine fusions. My favorite was the Barefoot Bubbly Tropical Fusion (with hints of pineapple, island mango and papaya).
Another food and wine paring was held at the Hotel Mazarin where five Souverain wines were the center piece of the multi course dinner. Their Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is simple and uncomplicated but fresh and fruity. Their 2011 north coast Chardonnay has flavors of crème Brule and their 2012 Merlot with hints of blueberry is easy drinking. The Tenderloin of Beef was paired with my evening’s favorite of the 2010 Souverain Alexander Valley Cabernet Reserve.
But the topper of the NOWFE week is the Royal Street Stroll, where with your arm banded entrance; you can sample many wines and morsels, set up in the middle of antique famous Royal Street. You can pick and choose which undiscovered wines you’d like to explore, while at the same time visiting welcoming antique dealers. The best and over the top is the M.S. Rau Antiques, where they offer several floors and galleries of old world antiques of silver, paintings, sculptures and furniture, accented by wine and desert tastings, if you venture to its farthest galleries. This decadent experience of sipping wines and imbibing morsels while strolling the eye candy antiques, is only available once a year during Royal Street Stroll.
It is almost imperative that you stay at one of the French Quartet hotels, where you are within easy walking distance of the events and you are filled with authentic 21st century French Quarter experiences. I split up my 4 day stay with 2 nights at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel with its upscale large hotel amenities and the Dauphine Orleans Hotel where the compound divide by Dauphine street, both gave a relaxed and quite respite. At both properties I sent email requests for a quiet room, something of a rarity in the middle of the French quarter, but each property delivered the perfect room locale. Each has accessibility to a bar: ghost filled May Baileys’ Place, at The Dauphine Orleans Hotel, and the Bourbon O Bar at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It’s always entertaining to visit a variety of bars, where each has its own ambience and quality of beverages.
May Baily’s Place, offered a congenial hostess, with quick service and impeccable mixes within an historic atmosphere. While the street entrance is on Dauphine it could be easily missed, and it is a boon that it’s connected to the courtyard of the Dauphine Orleans Hotel. Both properties are part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection which also includes the properties of: Audubon Cottages, Hotel Le Marais, Hotel Mazarin, Crown Plaza Airport, and the Whitney Boutique Hotel. Each has summer special rates which include breakfast, free parking and free Wi-Fi. Also included is a complimentary drink upon check in, and connections to airport shuttles.
And for a real southern Louisiana experience an overnight stay at picturesque Oak Alley and the garden landscaped Houmas House are easily arranged. Subscribe for free to Real Travel Adventures and get details on these two plantation lodgings, in upcoming articles.
Anytime is a great time to celebrate in New Orleans, as there is almost a festival every weekend. So if you can’t make the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, then check out the other festivals at: http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/festivals/